From Russia with Love (Great Games from the Eastern Bloc)


1C publishes most Eastern Block games these days. 
1C publishes most Eastern Block games these days. 
I love games that come out of Eastern Europe and Russia. If "Eastern Bloc" was a proper genre I would probably declare it as my favorite. So why the fasicination? I guess I just really like the cerebral and difficult nature of games from that part of the world. They also tend to make exclusively PC games for the simple reason that consoles don't seem to be common in that part of the world.
 
Mostly though I just love that games from that region are a little odd. They always have fairly unique storylines and although the voice-acting and stability are usually in question, they tend to be extremely ambitious games that take on way more then they are capable of achieving. I also love that most Eastern Bloc games use homebrew engines that for the most part tend to rival a year agos technology from major development houses in the US. 
 
In cinema I often refer to one of my favorite genres being "flawed epics", which encompass long movies that are huge in scope and all over the place in pacing. I think that tends to match well with this list of games. 
 
Really though, the reason I loved all of these games is because I had no fucking clue any of them were coming out. As someone who has been involved in professional game website building for over a decade that's a pretty rare feat. Almost all of these games had very little marketing campaigns and became a success based on word of mouth user reviews alone.

List items

  • From Croatia. Probably the biggest hit from this list. Serious Sam serves as a perfect example of the behind the times / ahead of the times style of Eastern Bloc games. For a 2001 game the idea of a pure level to level kill-stuff-till-you-get-to-the-end shooter was extremely archaic. At the same time the game's engine was pretty impressive, boasting an unbelievable amount of on screen baddies. The game kind of made everyone wonder what the fuck Carmack and Sweeney were doing in their claustrophobic counterparts.

  • From Russia. Like most other PC nerds I sometimes get it into my head that I'd really like to get into a deep flight sim. For close to 5 year IL-2 was the only game in town.

  • From Russia. Silent Storm is one of my favorite pure combat TBS games. Set in an alternate history WW2 the game slowly moves from sniper rifles and grenades to mechanized combat suits. The big thing it has going for it was an amazing destructible environment engine. I used to love setting charges on the first floor's support structures as a means of killing enemies up high.

  • From Hungary. For some reason Nexus never made it out from under Homeworld's shadow. The game focused almost exclusively on capital ship battles which gave the whole game an epic feel with long, drawn out battles. The story was similarly heavy with lots of loaded questions about humans vs. machines and the idea of creationism. Really dissapointed a sequel was never made. This one is truly one of a kind.

  • From Russia. Pretty much either the return or death of the TBS / world map style games depending upon who you talk to. I remember being completely amazed by the attention to detail in the artwork and character models. Still an extremely pretty game and if you like this style of TBS there really wasn't a lot better that came around until King's Bounty.

  • From Russia. I'll say it quickly: I enjoyed STALKER more then Fallout 3. A terribly misunderstood game that is extremely deep, if a bit broken. The concept was amazing and its implementation of RPG as FPS is the one I prefer given the alternatives (Mass Effect, Fallout 3). I've yet to play the prequel, but I'm trying to save it for a rainy weekend. If you're a fan of Far Cry 2 and its open world style and difficulty, you might want to check this one out.

  • From Russia. Featuring possibly the prettiest UI I've ever seen in a game, King's Bounty captures World of Warcraft's visual aesthetic and combines it with a better take on the fantasy, TBS / world map style game. There are times when it can get incredibly frustrating, but King's Bounty has the honor of being the most polished game on this list. Was extremely surprised when I found out it was a Russian dev.

  • From Ukraine. Probably my favorite game on this list and definitely the one that made me start thinking about how Eastern Bloc games share an odd weirdness in common. Cryostasis includes one of my favorite every storytelling in video games. From the jump into someone before they die concept to the disjointed narration style I was absolutely floored by this game. It unfortunately has some terrible stability problems and crashed quite a bit during my play through. So far it's a toss up between this and Batman: Arkham Asylum as my favorite game of 2009.

  • From Russia. Essentially think Company of Heroes but much harder and much more strategic. The interface can get a little clunky, and I'll admit I didn't make it through all of this one, but definitely a game I really respect for its take on RTS gameplay.

  • Mount and Blade comes from a Turkish developer, which means it really doesn't belong on this list since Turkey was usually friendly with the US during the Cold War. However, it completely fits in with the aesthetic we're presenting in this list. It's the one game I haven't played here mostly out of worry that it will completely absorb my time.

  • From Russia. Just started playing Majesty 2 but can already tell I'm in love with it. Perfect fit for this list as it's a very different take on the RTS genre. Instead of actively maneuvering your friendlies, you recruit heroes who pretty much act however they see fit. Somehow I missed out on the first game in the series.